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The value of strengths-based coaching

September 15, 2022

By Nina Bruder, Executive Director JNTP


“What’s working?”

So begins every Jewish New Teacher Project (JNTP) coaching conversation. One of JNTP’s foundational tools is the Collaborative Assessment Log, or “CAL,” which is a conversation organizer with four quadrants that directs and stimulates reflection. It begins by asking “What’s working” and concludes with action steps. This strengths-based approach is fundamental to JNTP’s support of new teachers and administrators and can completely transform a coaching conversation.

Sometimes being asked “What’s working” takes people by surprise and they have to stretch to come up with an answer. Teaching and administration work are hard, and often, educators are inclined to go straight to the frustration and discouragement of what’s NOT working. While our coaching conversations certainly get there, insisting on starting with “What’s working” reminds teachers and administrators that even though everything might feel hard, some things are actually going well. Every lesson, every class, every day has some elements that can be recognized as “working” well.

Starting with a focus on “What’s working” can build confidence. Focusing on strengths and successes provides an immediate dose of positivity as well as a mindset shift towards competence. Educators are reminded to see themselves as capable and effective. New teachers and administrators can see that they are doing some things “right,” even as they are floundering.

Starting with a focus on the positive can recenter teachers and administrators to engage in more balanced reflection and growth in order to replicate what is going well. Unpacking what led to their success helps educators understand why and how what they did worked, gain new insights, and identify what is replicable and transferable to others.

The more educators see and understand what’s working, the faster they can build their skill set and feel confident in their abilities, enabling them to do their jobs better, benefitting all.

As we head into the yamim noraim and begin a period of intensive reflection on our own lives, we can consider this strengths-based approach. Let’s start by asking ourselves “What’s working” instead of homing straight in on what isn’t working and needs to change. This can put us in the right frame of mind to strive for making changes that will help us grow in the coming year – personally, religiously, and professionally.

JEIC - Jewish Education Innovation Challenge



Evan Weiner

Associate Program Consultant

Evan Weiner is an Associate Program Consultant at JNTP, where he facilitates mentor training. He has been involved with Jewish Education for over 20 years. Evan began his connection with JNTP as a new teacher and eventually became a mentor himself, mentoring teachers in both General and Judaic Studies departments. He has been an educational leader in both formal and informal educational settings, and has brought his JNTP training to elicit the best in his staff partners. Most recently, Evan served as Judaic Studies Principal, Curriculum Coordinator, and Instructional Coach at Ohr Chadash Academy in Baltimore before joining the JNTP staff. Evan participated in the YOU Lead educational leadership Program and JETSIsrael Edtech Incubator Program and holds a Masters in Education from Azrieli School of Education.

Rachel R. Harari

Associate Program Consultant

Rachel Harari is an Associate Program Consultant at JNTP, where she co-facilitates new teacher training. She is also an Associate Lecturer at Columbia University and a middle school English Language Arts teacher at Yeshivah of Flatbush. Rachel is currently working on her PhD at Teachers College, Columbia University, within their Educational Leadership program. Through her work as a Department Chair for six years at Magen David Yeshivah High School in Brooklyn, New York, Rachel was inspired to study the role of the high school department chair in Modern Orthodox schools in New York City. Rachel received her M.S. in Special Education from Brooklyn College, and her B.S. in English Education from New York University, where she published her research on mathematics anxiety in elementary school students: “Mathematics Anxiety in Young Children: An Exploratory Study.” Rachel is a 2016 recipient of The Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize, which recognizes emerging leaders in the field of Jewish Education.

Lauren Katz

Director of Development

Lauren Katz is the Director of Development at JNTP. She has an extensive background in Jewish non-profit management with a specific focus on fundraising and development, most recently serving as the Director of Marketing & Communications and Alumni Relations at SAR High School for over four years and at the Ramaz School for seven years as the Director of Alumni Relations. In addition, Lauren worked at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and UJA-Federation of MetroWest, NJ in the campaign and planning and allocations departments. Lauren holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan and attended the University of Michigan School of Social Work and Jewish Communal Leadership Program.